Six children die from infection as health bosses issue warning
A sixth primary school child has died in the UK after contracting Strep A, as health experts to work to raise awareness about the disease.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been a rise in cases of rare invasive Group A strep this year, particularly in children under 10, with five deaths this season in England.
It comes after a pupil from Victoria primary school in Penarth, four miles south of Cardiff, also died, Public Health Wales said on Thursday.
Last week, a six-year-old died after an outbreak of the same infection at a school in Surrey.
Dr Ardiana Gjini, Public Health Wales’ communicable disease control consultant, said the body was working with the school to raise awareness about the disease, suggesting people familiarise themselves with the symptoms of fever, sore throat, severe muscle aches and redness at the site of a wound.
Dr Gjini said: "We offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and all those affected.
"Public Health Wales cannot comment on individual cases, and we ask that the privacy of the family is respected."
What is Strep A?
Group A Streptococcus is the name given to a type of bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin.
Strep A usually causes mild illness like sore throats and skin infections. In rare instances, those bacteria can cause a more severe and life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.
Invasive Group A Streptococcal disease (iGAS or Strep A) happens if the bacteria get past a person’s defences, such as through an open wound or when a person’s immune system is depleted. It means bacteria get into parts of the body where they are not usually found, such as the blood, muscle or the lungs.
What are the symptoms?
Most people who come into contact with the bacteria remain well and symptom-free, while some might develop a throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo. These are usually treated with antibiotics.
Very rarely Strep A can cause severe illness called invasive Strep A.
How do you catch it?
Group A strep bacteria often live in the nose and throat and can be spread by talking, coughing, or sneezing, leading to others breathing in respiratory droplets that contain the bacteria.
Strep A can also be passed on through close contact such as kissing or skin contact. The risk of picking it can be lowered through measures such as washing hands thoroughly.
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According to NHS information, contracting invasive Strep A from a relative or household member is very rare.
Pregnant women or those having gynaecology treatments are advised to wash their hands before and after going to the toilet.
It is also important to dispose of tissues after use and to wash your hands when you have a cough or cold.
How deadly is it?
Strep A itself is often mild in symptoms, but invasive Strep A is more severe.
This can happen when you are already ill or are on treatments, such as some cancer treatments, that affect your immune system.
Two of the most severe types of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome, and can lead to death in rare cases.